The underlying assumption I had going into my conversation with Gary was that homosexuality was a choice – conscious or unconscious. To put this another way, I assumed that God would not create a person to be gay and I think this assumption functioned more or less as the foundation for other assumptions.
For example, I never once considered that there might be a distinction between homosexual activity and homosexual orientation. I believed firmly, though perhaps subconsciously, that homosexuality was a condition of a reprobate mind. There could be several causes that lead to this, including child abuse and broken homes. But above all, I believed that it was the result of the worse kind of sexual deviation. That some people indulged their sexual lusts until normal avenues had been exhausted and alternatives alluring.
When Gary said, “they have chosen to live celibate lives” suddenly I realized that there were angles to this discussion that I had not considered. I thought the case was open and closed. I was wrong.
For example. I assumed that God would not create a person gay. But I had forgotten that humanity is broken and fallen from conception. This is not God creating a human to be gay. Rather this is simply another human coming into the world just like the rest of us. Fallen, broken and with baggage, like the rest of us.
But it was really Tony Campolo, more than anybody else, that caused me to see things differently.
A few months after that night at Gary’s house Tony Campolo had come to town for a lecture. Afterwords they had a whole slew of books he had written for sale, and one caught my attention in particular: Speaking my Mind. It was hot off the press.
The first thing Campolo did for me in this book was help me realize that nobody knows exactly what causes homosexuality, despite overconfident assertions to the contrary (such as mine). He also helped to reinforce and elaborate on the fact that we need to distinguish between homosexual activity and homosexual orientation. The Bible condemns the latter, but not the former. For an evangelical, that is a very important distinction to make.
Finally, in that book Campolo tells of a minister friend from Brooklyn who is called on one day by an undertaker and asked to do a funeral for a man who died of Aids. He is told that no other minister would touch it. So Campolo’s friend shows up and does what ministers do at funerals. His audience: gay men. They follow in a processional to the grave site where final remarks are made, the benediction is given and the men are dismissed. Only none of them leave. The minister asked if there was anything more he could do when finally one of the gay men spoke up. He wanted to hear the minster read the twenty-third Psalm. When he did, another gay man asked him to read a verse about how nothing can separate us from the love of God. At that point emotions swelled up on their faces. For over an hour the minister read their favorite passages to these gay men, one after another.
Here were a group of men terrified to step foot into a church, but also hungry for the Word of God. This story, and more like it, humanize the issues at stake. And it certainly pierced my heart.
In the next and final part in this short series I’ll talk about how my views have progressed since then, while remaining a committed evangelical. I’ll also share an email I received from a gay man some time back that I found very emotive (if I can find it).
[See part 3: Humanization]